The Best Chicken Salad Recipe – Quick and Easy

5 from 6 votes
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This easy classic chicken salad recipe is fresh, creamy, bright, perfectly chilled, bursting with flavor, and quick and easy to make and adapt to your liking for a high-protein, flavorful addition to any meal!

Chicken salad sandwich

A basic chicken salad recipe is a must-have for anyone who loves quick, easy, super versatile dishes. This salad combines simple, inexpensive ingredients (like leftover cooked chicken, mayo, mustard, red onion, and celery) to prepare a creamy, filling, high-protein salad that can be thrown together in minutes and is perfect during summer and all year at picnics, potlucks, BBQs, and for at-home or on-the-go lunches.

Even better, this easy chicken salad recipe is meal-prep friendly and almost endlessly versatile – both with what you choose to add to it and how you serve it. Along with the base recipe, there are dozens of optional mix-in options like juicy grapes, crisp apples, crunchy almonds, and more. Keep reading for all the top homemade chicken salad variations.

Chicken salad in a serving bowl

Once ready, enjoy this healthy lunch recipe with crackers, over bread, in lettuce wraps, quesadillas, and more. You might also like my recipes for tuna salad and egg salad.

What to Put in Chicken Salad

Make the best chicken salad recipe with simple, inexpensive pantry ingredients. A gluten-free, high-protein, low-carb salad that’s packed with flavor.

  • Chicken: You’ll need pre-cooked chicken (poached, roasted, grilled, or even rotisserie chicken.). I prefer poached/boiled or baked chicken – white or dark meat or a combination.
  • Mayonnaise: Use store-bought or homemade mayo. Full-fat will be the creamiest, but use a low-fat version if preferred for a slightly lighter salad dressing.

For an even lighter version, combine mayo and Greek yogurt or sour cream. Adjust the ratio to taste.

  • Mustard: Dijon mustard adds subtle heat and tangy depth to the creamy dressing.
  • Red onion: This is slightly acidic with a robust flavor. Use shallot or green onion for a milder onion flavor.
  • Celery: (or de-seeded cucumber) will add a fresh, crisp crunch.
  • Salt & black pepper: Use sea salt/kosher salt and season to taste.
  • Fresh herbs: I used dill this time, though it can be quite an overpowering herb. For a subtler flavor, try fresh parsley. Chives, basil, or (just a little) tarragon would also work well in this creamy chicken salad.
Ingredients for chicken salad sandwich

Homemade chicken salad recipes can be made with various popular add-ins, like nuts, fruit, etc. Refer to the recipe card notes section for my top recommendations.

How to Cook Chicken for Chicken Salad

Technically, most pre-cooked chicken will work in this recipe if it wasn’t cooked in a strong marinade/spice rub. I prefer to use boiled/poached chicken as it’s easy and healthy, but feel free to cook the chicken using any of the below methods:

You can also save time by using leftover rotisserie chicken. Just be aware that it usually contains a lot of sodium. Even canned chicken will technically work.

How Do You Make Chicken Salad

If you haven’t already, first cook and cool the chicken. Then cut it into small pieces. Meanwhile, finely dice the red onion and celery, and mince the fresh herbs.

Add all the ingredients to a large bowl and stir well until thoroughly combined.

Leave the salad to “marinate” in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes for all the flavors to meld, then give it a final taste test and adjust any of the seasonings if needed. Enjoy!

Steps for preparing chicken salad

How to Serve Chicken Salad

You can enjoy this creamy classic chicken salad in many of the same ways you would other creamy salads (like tuna salad or egg salad):

  • Over toast or in a bagel, chicken salad sandwiches, croissants, rolls, etc.
  • In tortilla wraps or pita bread,
  • As a low-carb option in lettuce wraps,
  • As a dip with crackers, chips, and crudités,
  • Over a bed of leafy greens – like spinach, arugula, mixed leaves, lettuce, etc.
  • In a grilled cheese,
  • Turn it into a delicious chicken pasta salad,
  • In a baked potato or to stuff an avocado.
Homemade chicken salad in a bowl

How Long Does Chicken Salad Last?

Once prepared, store the salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. It will taste even better on day two, so if you have the time, I highly recommend meal-prepping it a day in advance.

The flavors will meld/change over time, so feel free to liven it up with extra seasonings/mustard between servings.

Can you freeze chicken salad?

Chicken salad doesn’t freeze well because of the mayonnaise and fresh ingredients. However, you can freeze cooked chicken (pre-sliced/shredded) for 3 months, ready to pull together this salad whenever you like.

Chicken salad on a slice of bread

More Salad Recipes

If you try this recipe for how to make chicken salad, let me know how it goes in the comments below. I’d appreciate a recipe card rating and would love to see your recipe recreations – tag me on Instagram @Alphafoodie!

The Best Chicken Salad Recipe – Quick and Easy

5 from 6 votes
By: Samira
This easy classic chicken salad recipe is fresh, creamy, bright, perfectly chilled, bursting with flavor, and quick and easy to make and adapt to your liking for a high-protein, flavorful addition to any meal!
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Servings: 6

Ingredients 
 

  • 2 cups cooked chicken cut into smaller pieces, poached, roasted, or grilled, etc.
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise regular or light OR a mix of mayo and Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery 2 stalks or cucumber (de-seeded)
  • 1 red onion small OR shallot/green onion for a milder flavor
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 Tbsp fresh herbs I used dill but parsley, chives, or basil also work.

To make a chicken salad sandwich (optional)

  • lettuce leaves 2 or more per sandwich
  • bread as many slices as needed

Instructions 

  • If you haven't already, first cook and cool the chicken. Then cut it into small pieces.
  • Finely dice the red onion and celery, and mince the fresh herbs.
  • Add all the ingredients to a large bowl and stir well until thoroughly combined.
  • Leave the salad to "marinate" in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes for all the flavors to meld, then give it a final taste test and adjust any of the seasonings to taste. Enjoy!

Video

Notes

  • To save time: Use pre-cooked chicken leftovers or store-bought rotisserie chicken.
  • Use chilled chicken: It shouldn’t be warm when preparing the salad.
  • Adjust the texture: You can use roughly chopped, finely diced, or shredded chicken.
  • Finely chop veggies: This ensures you get a little of everything in each bite.
  • Experiment with add-ins: There are plenty of optional chicken salad ingredients to choose from:
    • Lemon juice: A little fresh lemon juice (or apple cider vinegar) will help to brighten the overall flavor.
    • Nuts/Seeds: Will add crunch. I.e., almonds, walnuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds. Lightly toast them for extra flavor.
    • Fruit: Add a little sweetness (and color) with red or green seedless grapes, chopped apples/pears, or dried cranberries/ cherries.
    • Pickles: (or pickle relish) Just a little, finely chopped, for extra tang.
    • Avocado: Either add diced avocado or replace some mayo with mashed avocado for extra creaminess, antioxidants, and heart-healthy fats.
    • Hard-boiled eggs: Finely chopped for extra protein and creaminess.  
    • Seasonings: Add extra flavor with garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, or even everything bagel seasoning.
    • Spice: Add chili powder, cayenne pepper, pepper flakes, curry powder, or hot sauce to taste.
Check the blog post for serving recommendations!
Course: Main, Salad, Side
Cuisine: American, Southern
Freezer friendly: No
Shelf life: 3-4 Days

Nutrition

Serving: 0.5cup, Calories: 282kcal, Carbohydrates: 2g, Protein: 12g, Fat: 24g, Saturated Fat: 4g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 13g, Monounsaturated Fat: 6g, Trans Fat: 0.1g, Cholesterol: 47mg, Sodium: 430mg, Potassium: 168mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin A: 107IU, Vitamin C: 2mg, Calcium: 17mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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